The Texas Renaissance Festival seems to grow bigger and more popular every year, having transformed from its more modest roots into one of the nation's largest events of its type, spanning seven weekends. Visitors today have a lot more to look forward to than gnawing on a turkey leg while looking at scantily clad people in costumes, and most people I've talked to in recent years seem to agree that the Ren Fest is better than ever.
At one point, the festival had a slightly unsavory reputation — I can recall a time when it wasn't rare to see a nearly nude woman wearing a chain-mail bikini walking around, and I'd heard many stories about the rowdy parties that occurred at the campgrounds after the festival closed to visitors for the evening. Two or three decades ago, visiting the Renaissance Festival was fun, but there just wasn't a whole lot to do, something that's changed a lot in recent years. While some of the event's excesses may have been minimized in favor of a more family-friendly atmosphere, that's not a bad thing, because there seems to be a lot more going on to interest people these days.
One of the Renaissance Festival's big draws is its performers, the many talented people who entertain guests in many ways. It's natural for folks to comment on the jousting and falconry displays, but sometimes it feels like the many musical performers who also perform during the festival don't get as much attention as they should. There are plenty more where these came from, but here are a few acts who have been working hard at the Texas Renaissance Festival this year.
6. THE BARD O'NEILL
Described as "a musician who acts, and an actor who sings and produces music," the Bard O'Neill brings a lot of fun to her performances, and is well worth stopping to watch.
5. THE CANNIBAL TUDORS
A band of cannibals tricked into signing a contract of musical servitude by Lord Kaiser, this musical group can be found performing at the King's Feast, The Sea Devil Tavern, Wonky Wally Pub and the Prince of Whales Pub. Their raucous style of entertainment is a crowd-pleaser.
Crannog may sound like the name of a monstrous overlord in a sword-and-sorcery fantasy film, but this troupe of musicians has been playing Celtic music at events for more than a decade, and their songs will please any listener who enjoys that melodic style of folk music. Their tunes have interesting arrangements, a style they've dubbed "Thrash Celtic," and feature a compelling and brash take on traditional music.
There's nothing that sounds quite like a bagpipe, except a bagpipe, and festival visitors who enjoy the sound of traditional Scottish music with a "modern twist" would enjoy Drones-N-Drums at The Cloister and the Green.
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2. JIM HANCOCK, THE BURLY MINSTREL
Jim Hancock has been a musician since childhood, and studied music theory and voice at the University of Texas before launching a career putting his multi-instrumental and vocal abilities to good use. While indeed burly-looking, this minstrel has a soothing voice, and is worth seeking out.
1. SAXON MOON
Consisting of Dave Elles, Paul Adam and Joshua Amyx, Saxon Moon is a world-music band from Houston. They play a lot of Renaissance fairs throughout the country, and after you give a few of their songs a listen, it's easy to see why they're in such high demand.